When Chase was preparing for college this past August, I was in the throw of the worst heart condition of my life, paralleled only to when Grace was in the NICU. Nothing worse than leaving your children somewhere you are not.
We had the pain staking task, a few weeks prior to his moving out, of going through his closets & looking for a home for his outgrown or out cared for items.
For years I was blessed to help establish & serve alongside a ministry for our local homeless friends. It is absolutely one of the most beautiful hand up, rehabilitating, Christ evident acts of love I have ever seen. Still going strong thank, God!
It was obvious Chase’s things were headed there. I made call after call to no avail. After a week or so, I started to pray & ask God where to lead me. WHO out there desperately needs these items? He actually planted the name of an old friend in my mind. One of the best of the best for orphan & foster child advocacy, especially in my community. I’d heard she had left Children’s Ministry Leadership at her church & went full time into serving the orphans on a larger scale, so I left her a message. She promptly called me back & led me to the Safe Children Coalition, which serves 3 VERY large local counties.
I’d like to introduce you to them…. and to Doreen. Especially if you are in my area; if not, I pray you’ll be inspired to meet the Doreen of your own township.
I decided years ago, when Chase was very little, that consigning our clothing for a return profit was not for me. (This is my opinion & preference. No angst towards the consigners out there, this is just me you’ll read why).
There were many years that I did not have a lot of money to give the less fortunate, especially the single mom years. Nor did I have a lot of time for serving in the community, especially working 50hrs a week during those single mom years. I decided that finding orgs that needed our items, would be a way for me to give back.
I don’t mean crap. Like the stuff that’s been in your attic since 1990. I mean laundered, great quality, cared for things, that would bless someone who was in a season of life improvement. The stuff that you almost have to let go with white knuckled grips, types of stuff.
When I did the tornado drives for my home community in Alabama, back in 2011, from my SW FL residency, it was a gigantic undertaking. I was floored by the dumping of disgusting things for a cause. A cause that had left hundreds homeless in an eye blink, just so people could clear their garages, never inspecting what they were donating, just that they were. It made them feel good & their spaces finally free of clutter.
We were blessed with a Uhaul full of wonderful, cared for items & thousands of dollars in gift card donations, which I wept over the entire 13 hour trip, solo, with 2 kids, 1 of which was an infant projectile vomiting & dealing with medical issues the entire trip. But I was so discouraged, not over my circumstances, but over how much we couldn’t salvage from 2wks of donated items. How much I had to sit by the road to be collected on garbage day.
How much time in trying to do something great, was wasted going through items that were absolute junk. Soured & mildewed clothes, blankets with grease & stains on them, 1 shoe here & 1 shoe there, stained underwear, broken appliances, broken toys- I could go on forever….. those people that had all they’d ever owned blown away in a snap of an F5 tornado, deserved just like us, to wrap up their kids in clean blankets & socks that didn’t have holes in the toes.
This is how I feel about donation boxes, clothing drives & my now unknown friends at the Safe Children Coalition.
Here’s what they do:: They provide & build resources to assist abused & neglected children & their families in reaching permanency in a safe & stable environment. Cliff notes version:: the abused woman fleeing for her life in the night with her kids & all they have time to do is run out the door to safety, this is their place. The teenager, baby, elementary kid who has been given away or given up, this is their place. The foster family who got a call at 4am saying we have a kid, kids who need a home & those people go…. they have nothing to give them but love, this is their place.
Here’s where we all come in:: Doreen & her people have set up an area in a warehouse (see pics below) where these moms, these foster parents, the teens & children, can come in & ‘shop’. By shop, I mean get the items they need at NO cost, but do so in a place set up to literally mimic shopping in a store.
Because people like you & I give the BEST of our items. These deserving people who are being placed in families, who are starting over from abuse & neglect, can come & get the best of the best also. Just because someone abused them, beat them or gave them away, doesn’t mean they have to look like it. Especially the kids from K-12th grade who just want to go to school & fit in or look like everyone else.
Not only do they accept items of clothing here, but all household items, toys, books, twin beds, towels, wash clothes, I mean the list goes on & on….
One shortage Doreen mentioned is the shortage of decent, good condition luggage. They DO NOT want the children carrying items to their new homes with items stuffed into a garbage bag. That is a very demeaning & low esteem situation on top of an already large scab. Duffels, large totes, but especially the luggage of any size, good condition, is really desired.
Everyone has an overflow of things in good condition. Our 1st instinct is always to sell it for profit. I am not condemning anyone for doing this, it’s your right. I just mention this due to how many people, especially on social media, who feel like churches & communities should be giving back, “right in our back yards”, yet never actually give anything in their own back yard. Whether monetary or material. Now you’re off the hook, I have the perfect place for you to plug in—- you’re welcome!
It took me 3 hours yesterday to fill my car full of bags & items across the board. Notebooks, PJs, Shoes, Shelves, Clothing, Sheets, etc. I am not a hero by any means, but I have been a single mom who lost everything due to a divorce at 29. The inability to afford supporting me & my son with housing in a very expensive city, the city I still live in, was something I can never explain to you. I wasn’t from a situation tied to a low class background. We were not the poverty dynamic. Fortunately, I had wonderful parents that helped me place what I did own in storage & they took us in for a year, so I could rebuild my life.
I got an amazing entry level job, built a career on my own, saved a lot of money & moved us out into our future, which is now a VERY blessed present. Had it not been for the hand up, the open door & the help of my folks, when I had nothing, Chase & I would have been in the same position these women & children are in & I cannot & you cannot let these type of things happen to those who are influential to our world’s future. I have no idea what would’ve happened to us had no one been there, but I guarantee I wouldn’t be typing this blog & he wouldn’t be an Honor Student who got himself to a major University solely on his own hard work & thousands of community service hours, with zero student loans. Think about that. Think about ways you can help your local foster families, exploited children orgs, programs that get women back into the work force… think about how easy it is to set the stage for someone else’s future performance.
You don’t always have to give money, you can give time. You can give the things taking up space, that are in GREAT condition, to bless a life that would give anything to have yours.
There’s a quote that states, “If we threw all our problems in a pile & saw everyone else’s, we’d take ours back.”
One of the best gifts I have ever given my son, now my daughter, is the gift of serving others…. joyfully. I encourage you, not just during holiday seasons, but weekly, daily if you can, find ways to serve others with your kids as witness. Have your children go through their own toys & own clothing to not toss out the worst, but learn to sacrifice the ignored items to help others who are not as fortunate. It changes them in the core when consistent selflessness is constantly around them.
My daughter, 5, is a visual learner. I can cram scripture & the Golden Rule, or expectations of who God wants her to be, down her throat all of her life. But, if she doesn’t see Christ in action, through me & her dad & brother in our home life year round, those are just words. I can’t expect her to perform with no training.
If we want our kids to be something; let’s be that for them. If we want our communities to be something; let’s be that for them. If we want people in this nation to be something; let’s model that behavior for others. Amazing what rubs off on people, just look around. Be the change isn’t just a cliche notion, it’s a call to action!
Matthew 6:19-21, ESV- “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
How you can connect with the Safe Children Coalition of Sarasota, Manatee & DeSoto Counties:
- Doreen Bartling
- 941-371-4799 x.119
- Suitcases- good condition preferred
- Twin Beds; sheets
- Crib sheets
- Bath towels & rags
- Dish towels & rags
- Grocery recycle bags
- Clothing items (infant-teen & adult) All sexes.
- Underwear & Socks- brand new is preferred; would you enjoy used under garments?
- Toys, Books, Board Games- good condition & working preferred
- Baby formula or food- not expired or ready to expire
- Back packs- good condition
- School supply items
- Anything that you would need if you had nothing
Please check out the pics below to get a visual of Doreen & the wonderful place where your items go once they’re recycled into the next deserving life! God Bless!